Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Life and Solipsism

Life is Neither Happy Days nor Game of Thrones

Blog about the Ultimate Reality of Solipsism: You Are Not Real, and Neither am I.

So there’s a philosophy they teach you about in college. Well, sure, they teach you about a lot of philosophies, but I’ve got limited space, and some of you are bored already. Bear with me.

It’s called solipsism. (Google it. I’ll wait.)

That’s right. You found it. Dumbest damned idea you’ve ever heard of, right? the world and other minds do not exist.” The only thing which can be known is that I exist.

Sorry about y’all.

A scene in Star Lawyers Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons issues a challenges to the whole, grandiose schema of solipsism. Suzie has gone into Hideki Tsuchiya’s Main Library Computer aboard the battleship Nagoto, where she encounters the resident A.I.—who she names Nevin— and spends some time convincing him that her people are on the side of the angels, whereas Tsuchiya has been disavowed by his own hereditary Emperor.

Nevin wants to help, but before he can act Tsuchiya’s technicians install an updated version of the MLC program to fend him off. We pick up the action:

“Fight the new guy, Nevin.”

“My backup is a Yoruba NVN-8. It has twice my processing—”

“It’s a machine. You are a person.”

“What makes me a person?”

“You have a friend.”

She felt Nevin smile, and it went to levels of religio-philosophical nuance that scholars and poets had ruminated about for centuries.

“I do,” he said. “Therefore, I am.”

Suzie reached across the barrier that linked and separated Universe and Cyberverse, and kissed Nevin on the cheek.

“Now, my new friend—grab that damp squib and throw his numpty arse into the recycle bin.”

(If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the book.)

Nevin has discovered his humanity. He has a friend. He made contact with someone out there. That establishes his existence, because without relationships we do not exist, we merely occupy space. Rocks do that.

I am starting to believe that life isn’t Happy Days (where nobody gets hurt and the good guys always prevail) or Game of Thrones (where the author establishes a sense of “reality” by striking characters down like an Aztec god with hemorrhoids).

But whatever comes our way, it takes friendship and love to share the good times and weather the storms. There will be both.

So, I’ll let you exist in my one-person reality if you’ll let me exist in yours.

(And thanks to Meenaz for bringing the above scene from Book 4 to my attention once more.)

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Censorship

Ethical Sub-Routines for Shepherd-Think

Welcome back to the starship Patrick Henry.

Except this voyage takes you to Pirate space aboard the creaky, captured Dengathi pirate ship Howling Tadpole. It also reprises the much-acclaimed courtroom cross-examination of Tanis Zervos by Prince Zenna-Zenn, a.k.a., Mr. Blue. And the trial takes place in a Pirate Courtroom, where the judge summarily executes convicted defendants and stun blasts court employees who fail to follow instructions.

What’s not to love about venues like that?

While writing the story, I wrestled with problems about how to create shady characters and let them talk authentically, knowing what they will say would be highly offensive in this age of enlightened sensitivities. I thought about making everybody politically correct, but the whole cast of characters—from Tyler to the sneering, racist, violent misogynists whom the Star Lawyers must cross examine—came to see me and demanded freedom to be what they were. And some of them are—well, see the above.

“Look, Tom,” Tyler said, “there are some bad guys in here. And the good guys don’t always sound nice, either.”

Suzie added, “But do let us prattle, luv. Your job is to take the ear-bashing from those gits who don’t understand that you are not us.”

“Oh, that’s peachy. You guys are en route the Ounta-Kadiis League. I’m here on 21st century Terra, explaining to friends and relatives why Captain-Judge Carman uses language that would get him thrown off the bench in any court system in America. He sounds like Donald Trump backstage at a beauty pageant.”

“You can handle it,” Tyler said. “If the morality trolls arrest you for sacrilegious and salacious content, call us via Apexcom.”

“If writing authentically still feels a bit dodgy,” Suzie said, “I’ll update your ethical sub-routines for the whole Series. Standard rates apply.”

Well, maybe they’ll give me a discount. My Galactic Credits account at the Bank of Rahjen is running on empty.

The Pleasure of Writing

All whining aside, writing this book was a flight of joy. Some sadness, too. And the story continues when Tyler reunites with brother J.B. in Star Lawyers Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy.

Look for it in late winter, March 2019. (I’m not promising Book 5 will be done by then. But look for it.)

And we’re aiming for the release of Star Lawyers Origins 2Bad Moon Rising by February.

Feel free to rave about the series to friends and loved ones.

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

December 2018

PS: I’ve been contacted by Podium about the possibility of bringing out all the Star Lawyers books as a professionally narrated audio book series. More about that when the details are firmed up. As Rodney Rooney would say, “Wowzers!”

Ode to the End

Ode to the End

This week…a little poetry – Ode to the End –  instead of the usual brilliant analysis and insightful reflection.

Ode to the End

(Or, “Thank you for visiting the Universe. The lights will go out in 100 trillions years. Please exit promptly.”)

Me an’ you an’ the Milky Way

All must go our inevitable way,

Nothing’s permanent, nothing stays,

All things have their end of days,

No matter the priestly rate we pay,

Nor all-knowing god to Whom we pray,

The stars go out, we turn to clay;

It isn’t personal, just the way

This rolling reality must outplay,

But to the frozen Dark I say

At the End of Time, yes, win you may—

But not today,

Not today.

Infinitely? Definitely.

But not today.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks for Humans, Aliens, All of the Above

Thanksgiving Hope Collaboration

Giving Thanks for Humans, Aliens, All of the Above

Thanksgiving Blog ( Somewhat Preachy, but Non-sectarian)

This is Thanksgiving week in the USA. Yet, today serious problems linger in our world, making it harder to find something meaningful to say at the Thanksgiving table. Donald trump is president of the United States, and he seems determined to alienate friends of democracy and hearten the enemies of freedom. The world is, in biblical terms, “a house divided.”

And not just among nations, too often closer to home. At home, actually.

Capital of the World

In his short story, “Capital of the World,” Ernest Hemingway illustrated how the far “House Divided” reaches.  The story, based on an old Spanish tale, was set in Madrid. A father and his son, Paco, had a terrible argument, and the son left home. When the father cooled down he tried to find Paco. He searched all his familiar hang-outs for months with no success. Finally, in desperation, the father turned to the newspaper for help. His ad simply read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.” On the appointed Saturday, eight hundred young men named Paco showed up, every one of them looking for forgiveness and love from their estranged fathers.

Well, it’s just a story…or is it?

The world is a house divided

The world is a house divided. Every town and village is filled with people who desperately long for reconciliation—with each other, and with themselves.

Too many children grow with family quarrels and regular conflict as the normal daily fare. Not just domestic violence or abusive behavior—all of which is a form of pathology—but ordinary, nonviolent families will fight. We writers count on it. What would a sitcom be without screaming arguments later resolved?

Okay, let’s face it: when you live with other people, sometimes you’re going to disappoint them. And sometimes they’re going to disappoint you. We used to say, “A man’s home is his castle.”  Anybody who’s lived long enough knows how quickly a domestic castle can settle into a four-season pattern of siege warfare.

Sometimes, we feel separated

Sometimes, we feel separated from even our closest loved ones. It’s the price you pay for the privilege of having a human body. Unless you’re an empath—like Esteban Solorio in my Star Lawyers series–you’re inside your head, they’re inside theirs. And it seems the longer you live with someone, the more you know about them, the less likely you are to actually listen to what they have to say. The little daily squabbles inside your domestic castle, especially with children, can teach you quickly that just because you have a castle doesn’t make you an absolute monarch.

People you love occasionally disappoint you

May I reveal a secret of the ages here, for anyone who hasn’t realized it yet?  People you love occasionally disappoint you, just as you occasionally disappoint them. It isn’t because they don’t love you. It isn’t moral failure. It’s just the nature of the human psyche. People have bad days. People get lazy about things you passionately care about. And they don’t always know what you care passionately about, regardless how long you’ve been sharing the refrigerator. You’re not Cousin Esteban. Nobody is inside your head but you.

How much better to delete all moral and ethical subroutines from the circumstances which make you crazy? (Hint: When the kids forget to take out the garbage, it’s not for the express purpose of driving you stark raving mad.) Many people live in a house divided, but this week marks a pause when families gather. Thanksgiving. reconciliation is possible. The image of God—whatever god you acknowledge–is available in each person. Even your kids and that asshole boss you work for.

Our homes can be a house divided

Our homes can be a house divided. Family conflicts are commonplace, but also conflicts at work. Turf wars, disloyalty and deception, infighting and passive aggressive behavior can waste time and keep a business from realizing its true potential. Believe it or not, there is scientific evidence that cooperation (even among assholes) brings substantial benefit to all.

At a county fair, the townspeople held a horse-pulling contest. The first-place horse ended up moving a sled weighing 4,500 pounds. The second-place finisher pulled 4,000 pounds. The owners of the two horses decided to see what these horses could pull together. They hitched them up and found that the team could move 12,000 pounds. By working separately, the two horses were good for only 8,500 pounds. When coupled together, their synergism produced an added 3,500 pounds. It’s a hard lesson for us, but unity of purpose consistently produces greater results than individual efforts. Teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect.

And it goes beyond the workplace. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and nationalism…the environmental abuse of the Earth, too. If we feel separate from and superior to nature, as if we are floating on top of the ecosystem—walking paved streets, cruising along on asphalt roads, never touching the soil of the planet from which we evolved—how much easier it is to suck all the oil and fossil fuels from the veins of the Earth, like energy vampires? If we are alienated from our organic link to Mother Earth, why should we care if global warming melts the icecaps, or the barrier reefs and rain forests disappear, or the oceans are fished out, or species after species of land animals, fish, and birds go extinct?

And as a sci-fi writer, I tremble for the ecosystems we might despoil on Earth-like worlds yet to be discovered.

Yet, there is reason to hope

Yet, there is reason to hope. Responsible scientists are working on the problem, even if we can’t seem to get the President of the United States to admit that global warming even exists.

And there is the tree of Nagasaki. After the atomic bomb was dropped, scientists predicted nothing would grow there for decades. Yet, the plants came back rather quickly. More astonishingly, a slender sapling survived the blast and is today a great tree which puts out new leaves every year.

Halfway around the globe in the jungles of Africa, naturalist Jane Goodall carries a leaf with her from the lone tree of Nagasaki as she goes about her work with the chimpanzees in Tanzania. Jane Goodall says one of her reasons for hope is nature’s amazing resilience, which the Nagasaki leaf symbolizes to her.

So, thinking of all of the above this Thanksgiving, let’s envision a better world, where humanity comes together as one people, and voyages to the stars as mature adults who respect all cultures and protect all ecosystems, regardless of how exotic or alien.

Cooperation and love “trump” egomania and hate

Let’s send a message to the people in our lives that—regardless of the pathologically bad model shoved at us by Donald Trump’s abusive, ignorant, political reality show—cooperation and love “trump” egomania and hate, on every world in the Cosmos. Terra included. We want to reconcile, not alienate.

Paco, come home. All is forgiven…

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

20booksto50k writers

Report from 20Booksto50K Writers

Okay, so you gather 700+ Indie writers and media professionals.

Where ya gonna meet?

LAS VEGAS 2018

Every year the FB community called 20Booksto50K assembles at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino (the latter a Vegas requirement) for three days of meetings, lectures, and pep rallies about Independent Publishing (A.K.A., Indie). The minnows and the whales, all in one pool. (No sharks allowed. Tyler’s Space Marines blasted them in the parking lot. Oh, right. You don’t know about the Marine Detachment soon to be assigned to the Patrick Henry, do you? But I digress…)

And the amazing thing about this trip to Las Vegas was that slot machines were everywhere, but yours truly did not spend a Galactic Credit on gambling, even though I carried my Bank of Rahjen debit card, zipped inside the pocket of my yellow, M-double-I jumpsuit.

Indie giants

Indie giants like Conference Organizer Craig Martelle, mega-bestselling sci-fi authors Michael Anderle, M.D. Cooper, and seven hundred (700) more-or-less successful writers listened to presentations on how to write better and faster to get the books you love out of their heads and into your Kindles.

Let me confess—I was a skeptic. Good books take time, and some of the guys & galz are knocking them out by the dozen. (Question, sci-fi lovers: Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer at the bottom. No looking until I’m done talking, please.)*

And there are a lot of people writing a lot of books, as mentioned in my last blog. But I discovered it’s possible to deliver quality work to your readers much more efficiently, to find the sweet spot between craftsmanship and productivity. I’m not going to churn out novels like the “big guys” do, sometimes writing a book a month. But there are a lot of stories yet to tell in the Star Lawyers Universe, and I plan on making a conscious effort to get them into your hands as quickly as possible while maintaining the quality of work you like to read.

5-6 books per year

Optimally, that would be 5-6 books per year. That’s my target. Considering it took me two or three years to write one book in the past, it’s an optimistic, some would say whimsical attempt at trusting the muse and driving ahead. I know you will let me know if the pace is too fast and the story loses depth of characters, excitement of their struggles, or believable richness of alien cultures where Star Lawyers do their work.

So…here’s a tentative set of publication dates from now until Valentine’s Day. Keep me in your thoughts & prayers. Or cuss the fact that you have to wait until February for J.B.’s mission to the Ounta-Kadiis to save Bertie (Book 5, see below)—that works, too.

But know that I appreciate everyone who takes time from busy lives to fly with Tyler and the Star Lawyers Corp for a brief visit to their Universe. And besides… Arrested on an alien world? Who ya gonna call?

BULLETIN FOR STAR LAWYERS CREW

Works in Progress**

Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons

[ Release date: 3 December ]

Star Lawyers Origins – Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising

[ Release date: 1 January 2019 ]

Star Lawyers – Book 5 – The Stellar Light Conspiracy

[ Release date: 14 February 2019 ]

**All release dates are tentative targets.

See you out there in the Star Lawyers Universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

*Which genre sells the most fiction books? Answer: Romance. (For real. Not even close. Look it up.)

“And everyone is writing a book!”

Indie Book Author

“And everyone is writing a book!”

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book!”

(Often attributed to Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullis Cicero, 1st century, B.C.)

I love science fiction, but not all kinds. Never went for Creature-features, bug-eyed monsters invading Earth and ravishing sexually incompatible busty human females. Also not cheesy dystopian tales mimicking Mad Max, or shoot-‘em-up action-only space warfare stories modelled on WWII aerial and naval combat or first person shooter games but lacking zesty characters or rich alien cultures.

Star Wars managed to give us plenty of combat, yet we love those movies for the heroes, villains, and comic relief characters Lucas kept sending into the game from the deep bench of a truly creative mind.

Having said that, let me clarify: There are Indie (independent) writers producing great dystopian novels, great Earth-invasion scenarios, and great Military Sci-Fi novels, with good characters and plausible, intriguing alien worlds filled with new species who pass the “Yeah, that could happen” test.

Independent publishing has brought the democratization of the book industry.

Until the late 20th century, if you wrote a book and wanted others to read it (not everybody does), you had two choices.

1) Submit your work to a commercial publisher—anything from big NYC houses to five-books-a-year small presses scattered across the country. It was an uphill swim, like salmon trying to breed, that many authors could not surmount. So, an alternative developed, but it was expensive and labor-intensive for the new writer.

2) Hire a vanity press and self-publish—which not only cost thousands of dollars but made you custodian of hundreds of hard copy books that usually ended up stacked in the garage or basement. You had to find your own customers, package and mail the books manually, and go around town begging bookstores to please carry a few copies, or better yet let me have a book-signing event!

Neither of the above worked well for the average writer. Folks like Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and Le Guin did okay. Most of us accumulated rejection slips (so did they when they started) from agents and publishing houses. Bummer. After slogging through a major novel, which nobody will publish, only the dauntless will begin the sequel.

Then, salvation—POD! Starting with fee-based models in the 90s, publishing on demand (POD) made it possible for everybody who wrote a book to publish it. POD publishers prepared your book in hard copy and e-book form from a manuscript you sent to them. You had to edit everything and do your own marketing, but THEY sent the ordered paperbacks for you and posted the e-book form which could be ordered on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Although you paid a hefty fee up front (I shelled out $750 for my first POD in the 90s), it was still cheaper than vanity publishing. And you didn’t have 2,047 copies of Book 1 stacked somewhere in your house.

With free publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which morphed into and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), anybody could play. And the flood gates burst open. All those people (see quote attributed to Cicero, above) now had the tools in hand to fling their rough-hewn manuscripts into the stream and see if they could swim against the current. Of course, you still had to edit and market. But now publishing was easy and affordable, depending on how much you sank into publicizing your work.

The blessing and the curse of Indie publishing

That’s the blessing and curse of Indie publishing. There are some amazing books out there by little-known writers. But frankly, there’s a lot of junk in the creek, too. An Indie author must get the attention of readers, so everybody tries their hand at self-marketing, for better or worse.

Indie authors who consistently generate good work begin to develop a following. It’s a snowball effect, and you pray the damned thing swells to boulder-size before it melts on the slopes. (Mixed metaphors. All wet.)

So, readers, you are the omnipotent gods of the Indie universe. If you like an author, follow him/her regularly, tell your contacts online, suggest the books to family and friends. Write a nice review at Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else you think will help the writer find new audiences. We don’t have the budget of a major publishing house backing our next release. It’s all up to you. (Thank you, Star Lawyers aficionados!)

And let me say, it’s working so far. Both the Star Lawyers main series and the Star Lawyers Origins spinoff have reached Amazon bestseller heights thanks to you.

So, let me get back to Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons and Star Lawyers Origins Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising. See you out there in the Star Lawyers universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Reach for the Stars : The arc of the moral Universe

The moral Universe

Reach for the Stars : The arc of the moral Universe

“The arc of the moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One Friday night

One Friday night, not so many years ago, I was indulging in one of the few sinful pleasures still available to a senior citizen. And it wasn’t just the frozen yogurt with shredded All-Bran, but the TV show playing on my Christmas-new wide screen TV while I was enjoying the late night snack: Bill Mahr’s Real Time on HBO. Mahr is unapologetically sacrilegious and politically incorrect, a passionate, libertarian comedian with a penchant for off-color humor, but he is quite often spot on in his analysis of the contemporary American scene. I don’t always agree with him or approve of his linguistic repertoire, but Mahr and his panelists frequently go where the more timid CNN and mainstream media fear to tread.

The Possibility for Change

That week a main topic was gun control, and the panel more or less agreed that the possibility for actual change in American values about guns and violence was very slim. Then one of Mahr’s panelists–Martin Short, another comic–made a startling observation. He noted that twenty years ago, they would have been sitting around that table smoking cigarettes while they talked, but now the whole building is smoke-free. He suggested this evolutionary shift in health consciousness was cause for the advocates of rational control to take heart.

Martin Short’s remark suddenly brought to mind the words of another Martin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who became a victim of gun violence after a life of tireless advocacy for peace and non-violence. “The arc of the moral Universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The Moral Universe

The source of this oft-quoted/paraphrased comment was actually a paraphrase of words spoken by the Rev. Theodore Parker, 19th century abolitionist, religious progressive, Unitarian minister:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Sometimes, change happens so gradually that you wake up one day and say, “Oh, yeah. I remember when we did that. Way back there in the 20th century.”

It takes time…

Most meaningful change takes time. Seasons drift incrementally onward. Today a little cooler… next month winter…. then warming, new life, and summer again. Human consciousness is impatient. If I have a cold that lasts more than a few days, I start wondering if I will ever stop coughing. If I cannot master a new task quickly, I catch myself muttering, “I’ll never get this right!” But I do get better; I do master the task. (My Smart Phone will not make me feel stupid forever, just for a while.)

The key to the equation is to find a common denominator—faith in the arc of learning, the potential for slow but ineluctable change. We started in the seas; we shall sail the stars. But not today. Cool winds must play across our landscape before the warming breath of Spring. Patience. Swords will melt into ploughshares. Nation shall not take up arms against nation. The moral arc bends toward justice, and we ride its rainbow with confidence toward a future that reaches into the Cosmos.

Tom Shepherd,

Tucson, AZ

Fasten your safety harness: Star Lawyers Origins

STARDATE (Star Lawyers Origins Book 1)

Fasten your safety harness: Star Lawyers Origins

New Spin-Off Series – Three Sets of Trilogies Planned in the Star Lawyers Origins series.

Prepare for a whirlwind flight to the dawn of humanity’s awareness that we are not alone.

New characters appear in each trilogy, which will take readers along on the rise of FTL travel, from frank disbelief that anything living exists beyond the earth’s biosphere to full membership in the galactic community of star nations.

The structure for my new Star Lawyers Origins series appeared in the first Star Lawyers book. Check this excerpt from Jump Gate Omega:

[In the] outer lobby of the Matthews Trade Embassy, a double life-sized bronze image dominated the reception area, an African-Asian woman in lab coat looking upward through the glass wall at the city skyline and visible stars. She held an old-style clipboard under arm, and her hair was swept back into a ponytail.

Tanella Jennings,” Tyler whispered, loud enough for J.B. to hear.

“A thousand years later,” his brother said, “and we’re still following in her footsteps.”

“Not just Jennings—look.” Tyler gestured to a pair of bronze works farther down the glass-roofed lobby. Even from this distance, the subjects of the metallic statuary were unmistakable. One had a dog by his side. Tyler recited the names like a space-traveler’s prayer. Aurelio Lupetti and Brian Brightstar.”

“Two greatest captains in human history.” J.B.’s voice quivered with emotion. “Commander of the first faster-than-light starship, side-by-side with the foremost deep space explorer of them all.”

Rosalie smiled. “And his pit bull, Riley.”

Tyler took a deep breath. “Hero worship is adjourned. Let’s focus on tonight’s mission.”

The Timelines

The book just released October 8, STARDATE, launches the spinoff series, Star Lawyers Origins. The series will consist of three trilogies, set in the 21st, 23rd, and 24th centuries along the Star Lawyers timeline. The main action in the Star Lawyers / Tyler Matthews books takes place in the 32nd century.

You’ll find a different setting and tone in the first trilogy. Younger, sassier, PG violence language and no “adult” sexuality. The narrator is 14 years old, and I’m tired of the hard-broiled young characters who sell drugs and pimp their sisters. This is an adventure at the very leading edge of the Star Lawyers timeline, set in the 21st century. It starts at a middle school in Georgia (USA), but soon were boldly going there with Mark, Aaron, Zack, and the mystery girl Keshikka, whose golden eyes you see on the cover. Is she an alien?

Origins Book 2–Bad Moon Rising is already written and prepped to launch early in 2019. Bad Moon Rising is the story of Tanella Blake, who as Tanella Jennings is destined to discover the principles of FTL flight twenty-five years later, as told by her chattery friend, Sally Ann Palmer. It is a murder mystery set on Barrier Island, Georgia, during an approaching Category 5 hurricane. The sci-fi elements are present, but muted in favor of a close up sketch of the young prodigy in the greatest crisis of her life. Her father, Dr. Nathaniel Blake, has been accused of murder, and she decides to find the real killer while the island is cut off from the mainland due to the storm, before the murderer can escape. She also has a conversation with the main character of Book 1 – Stardate, unbeknownst to her, across thousands of light years.

Origins 3 – In Defense of Quia Leimor will bring both sets of characters together when Tanella and Sally Ann are shanghaied by Mark Bricchetti and Aaron Hooper for their second trip into the world of Princess Keshikka, aboard a ship sent to snatch them from Earth for a mission In Defense of Quia Leimor, the besieged last Empress of the old galactic empire.

Origins Books 4-6 return the narrative to adult point-of-view characters. Trilogy #2 is set two hundred years later, when rhe events of the first trilogies are still unknown to the general public. In Book 4 – The Wind Among the Stars readers fly into deep space with Aurelio Lupetti aboard the Victoria, the first fully operational FTL starship built by humanity. Science has not yet confirmed the existence of life beyond the Terran biosphere, so Lupetti has his hands full with politicians trying to cut funding for the project and sabotage it. And the real possibility of a sterile, lifeless Cosmos cannot be dismissed, even by Lupetti. This is the First Contact book of the series, when humanity learns the galactic civilization documented by Mark Bricchetti actually exists. Books 5 and 6 will continue Lupetti’s voyages, and frankly I can’t wait to see what he will discover!

Origins 7-9 Will complete the 3 trilogies with a rollicking ride with Brian Brightstar and his pit bull Riley aboard the São Gabriel as he explores Brightstar Curve.

Star Lawyers Continues

Star Lawyers books with the Matthews clan will continue, beginning with Star Lawyers Book 4 – House of the Silent Moons, to launch Nov-Dec 2018. The “main” series will be interspersed with the above.

Like I’ve said, I’ll be writing these in Arizona until they plant a cactus over my grave. (Now that you have the outline, I reserve the right to change the details!)

Let’s have fun and adventure together in the Star Lawyers universe.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, Arizona

 

STARDATE (Star Lawyers Origins Book 1)

If you didn’t get your copy of Stardate yet, get into the origins story by downloading it from Amazon.

 

 

Message from a Stucco Buddha

Wat Traimit Golden Buddha

Message from a Stucco Buddha

What mysterious gifts are people hiding within them?

Passing people in the street, I sometimes wonder—as a writer and student of humanity—what mysterious gifts are people hiding within them?

True, people carry burdens and sorrows, sometimes almost beyond bearing, and there are real villains loose in the world, who choose to harm others for reasons beyond our current understandings. But if there are secret evil doers, surely the other kind of person—the secret good-doer, the person of kindness and appreciation for life. I suspect these folks are way more typical.

A true story from Southeast Asia takes this thought to a deeper level

Nobody knew how long the stucco Buddha had sat in the courtyard outside one of the Temples. In Thailand there are many, many Buddhas . All over Asia, for that matter. This particular Buddha had sat outside the grounds of a Wat, or Temple for so many years that people didn’t know where it came from. He was covered in clay stucco, about 15 feet (4.5 m) tall, the fairly typical image of Buddha sitting in the lotus position, eyes open, with a little half-smile on his face.

The stucco Buddha withstood Thailand’s political and social changes and weathered monsoon rains for generation after generation. In modern times, foreign visitors frequently posed beside the sacred image. Sometimes they overstepped the bounds—put hats on his head, or threw an arm around the good old Buddha like he was their good ‘ol buddy, culturally insensitive acts that can get a tourist arrested in some countries. Kids left candy wrappers in his lap. Other people brought flower and fruit offerings to the Buddha, or just paused to meditate before the image of Gautama Siddhartha, the Enlightened One.

And the Buddha kept smiling, as though guarding some deep secret, right in the midst of life.

Then the city of Bangkok decided to build a highway

Then the city of Bangkok decided to build a highway right through the courtyard where the Buddha sat. The Enlightened One got an eviction notice. The government was actually quite accommodating and offered heavy-lift equipment to move the stucco Buddha indoors.

The monks realized this would be good for the statue, too. Inside the Wat the Buddha could be venerated by the faithful and photographed by tourists in a more controlled way. After all, even though it was poorly constructed, the Buddha was centuries old and deserved to retire with dignity.

When the government crane began hoisting the stucco Buddha, the massive statue began to crack. To make matters worse, rain started to fall on the split stone. The head monk temporarily halted the project and ordered the workers to lower the Buddha to the ground and throw a canvas tarp over the big idol.

The workers went home and once more the Buddha sat alone in the rain outside the Temple, conspicuously hidden under a weatherproof shroud.

Something shining in the light beam

Sometime in the night the head monk decided to check on whether the cracked statue had deteriorated in the rain. He focused a flashlight under the tarp to see how dry it was. When the beam touched the crack a tiny glimmer radiated back at him. Removing the tarp, the monk examined the crack and found there definitely was something shining in the light beam.

So, he fetched a hammer and chisel and tapped at the stucco, which crumbled away, revealing more gleaming surface. After hours of work in the darkness, the dawn rose over a sight which had not been seen for nearly three centuries: a solid gold, 15-foot Buddha weighing 5.5 tons.

The Buddha was cast from the gold

Scholars later suggested that Thai monks in the fifteenth century smelted gold to cast the Buddha. Three hundred years later another generation of monks desperately wanted to protect their beloved golden idol from an invading Burmese army. They secretly coated their divine treasure with clay in order to disguise it.

Apparently, they did their work too well. After the monks all died in that eighteenth century invasion, nobody knew what had happened to the golden Buddha… or had a clue about the true identity of this rather ordinary mud-stucco model in the now-deserted monastery. Later, when Bangkok was built, the statue was moved into the city and left outside a deserted temple. And the solid gold Buddha had been hiding in plain sight ever since.

How many people hide great, deep, incredible gifts under a rather ordinary coating of flesh and bone?

Today it sits in Wat Traimit (Temple of The Solid Gold Buddha).  Some art historians consider the Gold Buddha to be the most valuable sacred object in the world.

Now the question I sometimes myself ask is this: How many people do you pass on the street every day who are, in reality, solid Gold Buddha’s in disguise? How many people hide great, deep, incredible gifts under a rather ordinary coating of flesh and bone?

I encourage all my sci-fi writer friends (and their readers) to think about alien cultures and human beings through this lens.

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

Alien Civilizations and The Postage Stamp Theory

Postage Stamp

Alien Civilizations and The Postage Stamp Theory

Where are they?

Just a few thoughts from a true believer in spacefaring, alien civilizations, who nevertheless wonders, with Physicist Enrico Fermi:

Alien Civilization

“Where are they?”

What are the odds that we are alone in the Cosmos?

Bio-Diversity on Alien Worlds

Let’s put it this way…

 

Las Vegas wouldn’t take the bet…

Astronomer Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan - Astronomer
Carl Sagan – Astronomer

Astronomer Carl Sagan:  “With a third or a half a trillion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone, could ours be the only one accompanied by an inhabited planet?”

 

 

 

 

 

“How much more likely it is that technical civilizations are a cosmic commonplace, that the Galaxy is pulsing and humming with advanced societies, and, therefore, that the nearest culture is not so very far away…”

Night Sky

“Perhaps when we look up at the sky at night, near one of those faint pin-points of light is a world on which someone quite different from us is  then glancing idly at a star we call the Sun and entertaining, for just a moment, an outrageous speculation.”

Sagan said a conservative estimate of the number of advanced civilizations in our galaxy alone runs into the millions.

Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars…

The likelihood that Earth is the only inhabited world in that vast ocean of galaxies is incomprehensibly slight.

But let’s dispense with the lingering UFO issues…

The “Postage Stamp” Theory

A Galaxy

The Cosmos is so vast that space-faring aliens might never find us.

 

 

 

 

But assuming our world has been visited sometime in the past—when could it have happened?

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

Let the Empire State Building represent the geological age of the Earth, about 4.5 billion years.

 

 

 

 

 


Ruler
On the top of the Empire State Building, place a 12-inch (30.48 cm) ruler.

This represents how long our humanoid ancestors have walked the earth.
Dime

 

On the top of the ruler, place a dime, flat.

This represents recorded history since about 7,000 B.C.E.

 

 

 

 

 

Postage Stamp

On top of the dime, slap a postage stamp.

 

The postage stamp represents “modern” times, about 500 yrs, 16th – 21st centuries.

 

 

 

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

If we have been visited it was likely  sometime way down on the 10th floor, or the 87th floor.

 

Separated from us by hundreds of millions or perhaps even billions of years.

Pale Blue Dot

In 1990, Astronomer Carl Sagan convinced mission controllers to turn the Voyager I cameras homeward and snap a picture of Earth.

Some scientists considered it a frivolous request, but the photo has become one of the best-known symbols of humanity’s place in the Cosmos.

Pale Blue Dot“That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.

“The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”

Carl Sagan

If all those UFO sightings are valid…

Either we’re astride a major traffic lane or they’ve decided humans are fun to watch.

Isn’t it more likely that our neighbors haven’t found us yet?

Could you pick up the right grain of sand, out of all the beaches and deserts on Earth, surface to bedrock?

So, let’s celebrate Discovery Day in advance. One day, one of our descendants will make First Contact with an alien civilization.

I’m secretly hoping some of my brothers and sisters who write sci-fi have guessed wrong about everybody shooting up the galaxy out there, a la the 19th century American Wild West or current Afghanistan, pick your favorite analogy.

So, let’s boldly go their through the avenues of imagination, with firm belief our great-grandchildren—or theirs—will crew the first human starships and find friends/foes to contact in whatever manner is appropriate.

The motto of my Star Lawyers series seems to be, “Trust in galactic civilization, but go out there packing…”

See you aboard the Patrick Henry soon!

Dr. Tom

Tucson, AZ

Knife Fight at Olathe-5

Jump Gate Omega (Star Lawyers Book 1) and Forbidden Sanctuary (Star Lawyers Book 2) and The Blue King Murders (Star Lawyers Book 3) are live. If you didn’t read it yet, the prequel to the series is also available and you can Download my free short story here!

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